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Bush Defends US Policy on Iraq, Promotes Democracy in UN Speech - 2004-09-21

President Bush defended the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in a United Nations General Assembly address Tuesday in which he also urged the world community to fight terrorism and promote democracy.

Mr. Bush did not refer directly to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's comment last week that the invasion of Iraq was illegal.

But he said the U.N. Security Council had threatened the former Iraqi regime with serious consequences if it defied past resolutions, and said the U.S. led-coalition had in his words "enforced the just demands of the world."

In a wide-ranging address to the General Assembly, Mr. Bush urged the world community to rally around the U.S.-backed governments of Iraq and Afghanistan now in the face of terrorists aiming to disrupt their coming elections.

"We can expect terrorist attacks to escalate as Afghanistan and Iraq approach national elections. The work ahead is demanding. But these difficulties will not shake our conviction that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail."

The president promised to stand by the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and security are fulfilled, and said those countries will be a model for the broader Middle East, where he said millions of people have been denied human rights and simple justice.

The president said many nations including the United States, have tolerated and even excused oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability.

He said democratic reform is essential to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said both sides need to act to achieve the promise of the international "road map" to peace:

"Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel," the president said. "Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations."

Mr. Bush, making clear the administration's global agenda extends beyond the Middle East, congratulated the Security Council for its resolution last week on the Darfur crisis in Sudan, and called on the Khartoum government to honor the cease-fire it signed last April, and to "stop the killing in Darfur."

He stressed the U.S. commitment to the fight against AIDS, human trafficking and corruption and endorsed a transition from loans to outright grants in aid to developing countries, as well as a Costa Rican initiative for a comprehensive ban on human cloning.

Mr. Bush said the advance of liberty is the path to a safer and better world, and proposed establishing a Democracy Fund within the United Nations to promote the rule of law and democratic institutions.